MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Legal experts say the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision to overturn former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor’s third-degree murder conviction clears up decades of confusion over how courts should apply the state’s third-degree murder charge.
"Oh it’s been murky since the mid-1880s," said Paul Anderson, a former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice.
In Minnesota, the definition of third-degree murder is when a person kills someone without intent by perpetrating an act dangerous to others while displaying a depraved mind. On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled the depraved mind element does not apply if the persons’ actions are directed at a particular victim.
"He took the gun, pointed it directly at her and fired it. That is not a depraved mind," said Anderson.
"I think a lot of us saw the use of this particular charge as creative and maybe not necessarily supported by case law," said former Ramsey County prosecutor Susan Geartner.
Geartner says the charge has been used in several police-related cases, but with other options like manslaughter on the table.
"I don’t think this will have a significant impact on police prosecutions going forward," said Geartner.
Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was also convicted of third-degree murder for the killing of George Floyd. His lawyers could argue this charge no longer applies to him either, but because he was also convicted and sentenced based on the higher charge of second-degree murder, he won’t receive a shorter sentence.
The ruling also won’t impact the other three Minneapolis police officers charged with killing Floyd. Their charges relate to second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
Noor’s case will go back to a Hennepin County judge, who will hand down a sentence for the second-degree manslaughter conviction. The sentence for that charge is usually four years, which means Noor could be released in the near future. It’s likely the state will argue he serve a longer sentence.
"I think we could see more time coming and I don’t think he’ll walk the way people think he might," said attorney Mike Bryant of Bradshaw and Bryant.